It’s the first guiding principle of yoga – the first ‘Yama’ – yet it appears to be the most misunderstood by yoga teachers and students alike. Why is that?
Because the majority of humans like to interpret everything through their own filters and adjust information to a more comfortable setting so they can maintain control and feel safe. And that’s not about yoga, that’s about ego.
So if you’re a yogi, here are a few things you need to understand.
You are in service to something far greater than yourself and by choosing to become a ‘teacher’, you have a responsibility to uphold those values no matter what. This includes being prepared to constantly look at your own programming and how you may be sabotaging your self, with or without knowing it. Nobody is a perfect human yet we are all perfect in the spiritual sense, here to learn lessons and evolve through the alchemy of doing and being, acquiring and surrendering.
This is divine law, whether you are a science nut or not. If you have chosen the yogic path, that means you must walk the yogic path.
With the explosion of teacher trainings across the land several years ago, we saw the global yoga community swell to the point of over saturation. Many people came to yoga through their own healing journeys, discovering it was their calling and some chose to study out of sheer curiosity and with no future plan. Some even studied out of boredom or because their friends were doing it. All in some way were unconsciously hoping it would lead them to a deeper sense of purpose for sure, but the important thing to note here is that many of these students came from all avenues of life, they had accrued their own personal baggage and whilst some had already done a certain degree of self work, the majority hadn’t. They all brought their sh*t to the mat with them in the hope of finding salvation. However, yoga is not a nursemaid, it is a tough master and it will ask things of you that will press your buttons and challenge your beliefs. If you are to advance in the practice – and I’m not talking about being able to handstand on your nostrils or flip backwards from one into Chaturanga here – you need to accept the ‘conditions’.
You need to pledge allegiance to the exploration and eventual embodiment of the Yamas and Niyamas. These need to become your yardsticks. For life.
Now this is not an easy task for anyone and it does require next level discipline, the desire to tap into more of oneself (even if you don’t know what that is or what you are capable of), and apply the actual doing of what you’ve signed up for, daily. But this is the commitment you make when you decide to change your circumstances and to be an instrument to help others change theirs.
There was no fine print in any of your trainee contracts (I’m sure) that said you could be excluded from certain practices if any aspect of said practices made you feel too uncomfortable, threatened your inherited belief systems or made you look in the mirror for the first time in your life, was there? Nope. And yet you signed up ugh boots and all because your heart told you it was right for you. You made a choice to show up for the journey and to trust in it, however it would unfold.
So where is that conviction now when everything around you is changing and you supposedly have this island of knowing and peace within to anchor you? How are you honoring that?
If you are someone who cannot see what another who is more intuitive and esoteric, can see, do you attack or allow? Do you let yourself gaze into the spaces that scare you or do you push them away because it threatens to upset your comfort zones or crack your well-groomed boundaries?
I ask because this is exactly what yoga is about; expanding ourselves in order to experience a new and more light-filled reality. It’s how we move through the eight limbs, by welcoming challenge and pushing against our edges until we discover a new layer of self. You can’t reach Samadhi if you’re carrying your yogic weight in baggage.
Those who have done (and continue to do) their deep personal work, peeling themselves open and pulling themselves apart to dissolve attachment and ego and who constantly strive to consider any and all points of view and possibility in order to gain greater understanding and maintain ‘ahimsa’ – are currently being hounded as heretics, a ‘danger’ to society and in many cases ‘un-yogic’. Those who have maybe done some (albeit intermittent) work on themselves over the years but stopped when the going got too tough or their reputations came under direct threat because the opinions of others matter more to them than the opinion of god, are the ones pointing fingers at their friends now.
There is so much violence being spread via discussions and posts and blogs right now, it makes my head spin. In fact it’s giving me regular headaches as I watch many of my brothers and sisters regress and go round in circles because they keep relying on their intellect to make sense of this world; when all they need do is drop into their hearts to know what’s up.
Thoughts and words carry vibrations that are just as powerful and as negative as their physical equivalents remember and once you say something, you can’t un-say it.
We have all manifested an ‘us’ and ‘them’ situation in our international community where we are un-friending and blocking one another like juveniles, triggered by a different perspective and adamant that our way is the ‘only way’. It is saddening to say the least and I sense the head sadhus in the ethers upstairs are shaking their heads saying, “See, I told you those westerners weren’t ready!” Some are walking among us as well by the way, shell shocked by what they are witnessing in the yoga world.
We all make choices that we feel align with where we’re at in each moment, but we must remember that in each moment we are only ever moving from the level of consciousness that we have at that time. So by definition, choice is fluid and relative to our present level of awareness and therefore, our willingness to learn through growth and connection.
During this pandemic, have you been engaging with diligence and equanimity? Have you been looking at your own shadow or acknowledging that a greater manifestation of shadow even exists – and that it thrives inside the very places (and people) you were taught it never could? Have you gone down the rabbit hole for no other reason than you simply must know all the in’s and out’s for yourself?
Everything in life comes down to our intention and to where we place our attention doesn’t it, so which Yama do you feel that feeds into?
The main one, Ahimsa, because if your intention isn’t clear or grounded in integrity and you’re not moving from the loving and awake principle of ‘doing no harm’ – and you’re not fully paying attention to the potential consequences of every decision that you make – then you are just creating (and then hiding behind), another veil of make-believe, of illusion.
Your inability to discern and consider multiple perspectives from your highest knowing, may not create harm directly, but it certainly allows the energy of pain and pattern to continue and when we stand by and do nothing – or keep doing as we always have and believing the same social dialogues without questioning if a better way is available or possible – we are part of the problem.
And that is a mask of our own making, on top of the ones that are already established for the collective to process and pull down.
Ignorance is a great teacher though and so is pride and we are all on a learning curve in this life after all. When we reach the space where we can admit we don’t know, that perhaps another way is worth entertaining and that maybe somebody else has an answer to the question that we currently cannot comprehend, we will start to shed the binds that keep us small and stuck and let’s face it, a tad stupid. We will start embodying yoga, not just teaching or talking about it.
The mindset is what we need to dissolve, not our communities.
We need to come together from our hearts, as different beings with different views and gifts and appreciate one another for what we offer the group – especially if it means by doing so, that there is even the slimmest possibility of finding a way forwards out of the darkness for all of us.
THIS is what duty of care is all about – in my book at least – showing up in all your humanness and being willing to take a chance on discovering something new coming in from the sidelines and completely left field, instead of blindly following and trusting the contrived status quo that likes to head-butt us front on and into submission, as ‘the only way’.
Breaking free is how we lead. This is how we love and this is how we liberate ourselves from the bonds of spiritual slavery.
At the end of the day, one only has to give themselves permission to receive the independent and inspired information that is out there and to step away from all personal programs that no longer serve their soul’s growth, in order to see that. Finding an authentic connection with god, whatever/whoever that looks like to you, is also a must.
Ignorance is a great teacher remember, but it is also choice.
Life is about being independent not dependent. About feeling with consciousness and not following something that seeks to destroy your flow. It’s about stepping up and out into the arena with all the other warriors fighting for truth and justice and showing others you are not afraid to be seen or heard for who you are anymore. Life invites us all to trust our intuition and not worry how speaking our truth and showing our tribe who we are, is going to affect our bank balance because nothing is more important right now than uniting in nature and living yoga like never before.
If we can do this together, we will honor all the lineages and all the teachers who have paved the way before us because we would have risen above and beyond the very precept that has been ingrained in the human psyche since our inception – that we are separate and weakened because of our differences, when in truth, it is our differences that make us stronger.
The violence is in our refusal to embrace who we are and unite AS this Oneness.
Denby Sheather is a renowned Australian yoga therapist, spiritual activist and energetic healer. Author of ‘Mana Yoga: Discovering your Yoga Nature’, she is all about activating your natural powers and awakening your divine soul purpose. You can sign up for her free, weekly astro-shamanic forecasts at her website www.denbysheather.com.